(director: Robert Asher; screenwriter: Michael Pertwee/Peter Blackman/from the play Breath of Spring by Peter Coke; cinematographer: Reginald Wyer; editor: Roger Cherrill; music: Philip Green; cast: Terry-Thomas (Maj. Albert Rayne), Athene Seyler (Dame Beatrice Appleby), Hattie Jacques (Nanette Parry), Billie Whitelaw (Lily), Elspeth Duxbury (Elizabeth Pinkerton), Irene Handl (Madame Spolinski), Jack Hedley (Jim Benham), Raymond Huntley (Inspector Pape), Kenneth Williams (Freddie Warrington, fence), Noel Purcel (Burglar), Sydney Tafler (Lionel Spanager), Joan Heal (Dora Spanager), Penny Morrell (Gertrude), Freddie Frinton (Drunk); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hugh Stewart; MGM/Rank Film; 1960-UK)
“Whimsical comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Robert Asher(“Follow a Star”/”The Bulldog Breed”/”8 Million Ways to Die”) directs this whimsical comedy, written by Michael Pertwee and Peter Blackman. It’s based on Peter Coke’s West End play Breath of Spring.

In London’s borough of Kensington, Dame Beatrice Appleby (Athene Seyler) takes in high-class lodgers in her large flat for needed income and also to provide her a source of funds for her charitable work at a children’s home. The Dame’s devoted young reformed delinquent maid Lily (Billie Whitelaw), dating an aspiring policeman (Jack Hedley), appreciative that Lady Beatrice was the only one who would hire her after a prison stint, gives her a mink as a present that was given to her as a come-on by slimy next door neighbor fur thief Lionel Spanager (Sydney Tafler). This gets Beatrice to sell the hot mink and move to form a gang to rob fur salons and for her fence nephew (Kenneth Williams) to give her cash for the goods. The dowager envisions the gang to be one like Robin Hood’s, who rob the rich to help the needy. Beatrice recruits her eager to help good citizen lodgers to be the robbers and she ironically leaves out the maid from the risky scheme, who happens to be the only experienced thief. The thieves are led by the quirky gap-toothed pensioner Albert (Terry-Thomas). He’s a retired major, who welcomes the opportunity as it gives meaning again to his dull life and he takes great pleasure in organizing fur raids in a crisp disciplined military manner. The unlikely motley crew of thieves includes daffy timid spinster Elizabeth Pinkerton (Elspeth Duxbury) and the very strong obese etiquette teacher Nanette (Hattie Jacques), who is miserable because she’s stuck teaching to hopeless cases.

The Brit humor from the implausible farce escaped me, though the dicey comedy of errors venture might appeal to fans of Terry-Thomas-someone I never acquired a taste for. But there’s at least one amusing scene that got a big laugh, that has a cowering Terry-Thomas emergingout of the dockside shadows to The Third Man theme.

REVIEWED ON 12/31/2013 GRADE: C+